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This blog is from Mike Morgan in Wauwatosa, Wis., which is a suburb of the one-time beer capitol of the world and current capitol of heavyweight motorcycles. It is dedicated to holding court on topics related to life, family, religion, politics, sports, exercise, music, taverns, the Simpsons and anything else I want to discuss.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Munich Massacre: 40 years and 10 Olympic Games later


Every four years, it amazes me how the Olympic community and media seem to gloss over the Palestinian terrorist murders of 11 Israeli team members at the 1972 Games in Munich. It’s hard to believe it has now been 40 years and London 2012 will be the 10th Olympic Games since the massacre in Munich.

In recent days, the International Olympic Committee commemorated the tragedy in an Olympic village for the first time in London and others are calling for more fitting and proper memorials. 

Much like many children of today, I was 10 years old and just beginning my fascination with the concept of sports and the Olympic Games in 1972. I watched Mark Spitz win an incredible seven gold medals in swimming, gymnast Olga Korbut show us that Russians actually had personality and Frank Shorter inspire a generation of American runners by winning the marathon. While it was hard for me to understand the theft of a U.S. basketball gold medal by misguided and/or corrupt officials, it was nearly impossible to comprehend watching ABC Olympic television host Jim McKay describe the kidnapping and murder of innocent Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists on September 5-6, 1972.

“When I was a kid, my father used to say "Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized," McKay reported. “Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They've now said that there were 11 hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone.”

While the Games were halted temporarily and a memorial service held, they eventually finished under a huge dark cloud of mourning and increased security.

Only later on would I come to understand the irony of Jewish Olympians being murdered by terrorists in the country that ordered the Holocaust of World War II. Not to mention the further irony that security was lacking in Munich due to German efforts to show the world that fascism was a distant memory.

History closely repeated itself in 1996 when an American terrorist, Eric Richard Rudolph, planted a pipe bomb in Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the Games held there, where two people died and more than 100 were injured.

Much like many Americans want to forget the horror of September 11, 2001 by avoiding the painful images and memories of that day, the Olympic community rarely remembers that fateful September 1972. It would seem that there should be a permanent and visible Olympic memorial to the slain Israeli athletes and coaches, whether it be a statue of concrete or marking of ceremony.

The mainstream media often avoids the issue, although HBO aired an Oscar-winning British documentary of the events "One Day in September" just before the Sydney Games in 2000. Much like filmmaker Bud Greenspan's compelling Olympic documentaries, "One Day in September" describes dramatic and important events too often forgotten by most of us. While that program is one of the few reminders we have of those dark days in September 1972 and we’ll see what marks the 40th anniversary in 2012, I know I'll never forget the Munich Games.

As my sons watch the London Games and enjoy the "thrill of victory and agony of defeat," I pray they won't have to endure another Munich-like tragedy or something worse considering the world of terror we confront today. Sadly, Munich in 1972 was probably just the beginning of what we now know as the war on terror and should not be too easily forgotten.

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